It was a very auspicious beginning to my 300 hour yoga teacher training here on the beautiful island of Gili Meno a school of about 50 dolphins on the boat crossing from Bali, a full moon (plus lunar eclipse) on first night of training, and beautiful island to call my home. Shortly thereafter, it seemed that the theme of our first week turned somewhat darker: or more precisely, to what lurks in the darkness.
In a literal sense, darkness came in the form of the two day complete power outage we experienced over the entire island. No WiFi, and nothing to illuminate the shadows except the soft glow of candlelight, and the blazingly bright stars and moon above.
In the darkness, the creatures and critters begin to emerge. And not just the ones who crawl on the island or across my bedroom floor. True, there are plenty of those: multiple varieties of (large) spiders, scorpions, lizards, and my house gecko, who I hear crawling and calling from my bedroom walls.
We also have beautiful butterflies and birds, amazing sea creatures, and an endless supply of mosquitoes. We need plenty of bug repellent to fend off those pesky insects in our lovely open air yoga shala from the moment we start our 5:45am practice until we finish our final meditation at about 7pm.
The mosquitoes make a wonderful metaphor for the other creatures we are facing this week. We’ve also been stirring up and swatting at the creatures that live deep in the tissues of our bodies and in the recesses of our souls. Everything that has ever happened to us in life is stored in there, and it needs to be cleansed before we can begin the journey to meet our higher selves.
Our teacher, Everett Newell, is quite skilled and methodical with the use of asana (physical) practice to achieve this stirring of the demons. We have spent the majority of our nearly three hour morning practices doing LOTS of long holds in our postures to cleanse and purify our bodies.
This is necessary, vital even, to get to know the literal, physical, and mental toxins we have built up and stored there over the years. He has supplied us with powerful practices of pranayama (breath work) and meditation to face these creatures with grace, courage, awareness, and I dare say even love.
It hasn’t always been easy, but the good stuff in life rarely is. We are climbing toward what Everett refers to as the “promised land”- a reunion with our true, highest, and most authentic self, and we need to clear, or sometimes make friends with the demons so they don’t get in our way.
We will continue in this next week to climb the ladder to meet this higher self as we begin longer seated meditations and more complicated pranayamas. Imagine sitting with one pointed focus for 60 or 90 minutes, breathing deeply and clearing the mind of the noise that distracts us from this authentic self. This is why I came here. This is the good stuff. This is the yoga.
I want that meeting with Buddhi (my highest self), so the ladder I will continue to climb, one rung at a time, to find my true purpose and my most authentic self.
On our first day, we were given the challenge to “empty our cup” and become a beginner again. I have poured it all out this week – let go of what I thought I knew and surrendered to the (sometimes literally) painful process of cleansing and learning something new. After over 20 years of practicing yoga, I learned how to breathe anew.
I’m looking forward to filling my cup back up in the next few weeks with something different – hopefully something more realized, more conscious, and perhaps more beautiful. As I continue to refill my cup and polish my souI, I will also keep in mind the wise words of Lao Tzu that hang in our outdoor dining room where we share our meals: “Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill. Keep sharpening your knife and it will dull.
Fitting then, that our first day off – filled with sea turtles, relaxation, and fun with new found friends – seemed to be nearly mosquito free.